Maryland Lawmakers Hold Hearing on Doggie Dining Bill

Maryland is a "pet friendly" place. Dogs in cars. Doggie treats on the street. But dining at restaurants?

"I'd like to see it," dog owner Michael Mahoney said. "They do it in Europe. Most of the dogs are well behaved. They sit outside, eat with the folks, mingle with the kids. I think it's a good idea."

In Annapolis, Stan and Joe's Saloon on West Street is one of the many restaurants that welcome dogs and their owners, serving them on the patio deck out back.

"People love their dogs and they want to sit down and have a meal," owner Joe McGovern said. "We bring water out to the dog, as long as they're not trouble, we're all happy."

All of this is fine but technically illegal, unless a new bill passes in the Maryland General Assembly.

The Health and Government Operations Committee held a hearing on the bill, called the Dining Out Growth Act of 2011. It is sponsored by Maryland Delegate Dan Morhaim, who said it's meant to stimulate the economy, create jobs and promote tourism.

"Restaurants can choose on a voluntary basis under very strict guidelines," he said. "If they want to allow dogs outdoor eating selectively, they could."

Dogs will be restricted to the outdoor dining areas in front of restaurants. They will not be allowed to go through the restaurant to get to a garden or deck out back. And dogs must remain on a leash controlled by an adult so they don't bother other customers.

"I live next door to a bar and grill and we used to go there, but now I'm not allowed to take her there up on to the deck because I think people complained," Cameron MacDonald said. "They didn't' like dogs, they were scared of dogs, they didn't think the dogs were friendly."

Maryland restaurants that want to serve diners with dogs would have to notify their local health department and post signs in the areas where dogs are allowed.

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